When the men and women of my generation look back over the changes that have taken place in Spain since the end of the dictatorship and the proclamation of Don Juan Carlos in 1975, we tend to focus on two important events that stand out over all others. The first is undoubtedly the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, the founding text of our current democratic system.
The other is Spain’s accession to the European Community on 1 January 1986, which the Institute I have the honour of chairing wanted to commemorate by publishing this work. In reality, both events were closely related. After 1962, and as a result of the famous ‘Munich Conspiracy’ following which the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Communities adopted the Birkelbach report, the Spanish people realised that only a fully democratic Spain would be accepted as a full member. Indeed, many of us associated the European Communities not only with modernity and socio-economic progress, but also with democracy and freedom.
This was evident once again in 1977, when our application for membership was formally presented just a few weeks after the first free elections to be held in our country after a hiatus of more than 40 years. Since then, the Europeanisation of political, economic and social life in Spain, as well as its internal and external security, has proven to be entirely compatible with the common project we Spaniards have drawn up on the basis of the values enshrined in our Constitution. In short, democratisation and Europeanisation can be considered to be the two major achievements of the considerable development of our country over these last two decades.
However, it is not always sufficiently clear, especially outside Spain, that in addition to facilitating our political and economic convergence with the countries around us, Spain’s accession to what is now the European Union also presented an opportunity to overcome long decades of isolation and impotence on the international stage. Although difficult to quantify, this has in turn resulted in Spain having increasing influence on the Union’s institutions and decisions. As such, we can talk not only about Spain becoming more European, but also about the European project becoming little more Spanish.
It would appear, therefore, that there are more than enough reasons for looking in greater detail at what participation in the European Union has meant for Spain. Indeed, that is the primary objective the Elcano Royal Institute hopes to fulfil with the publication of this interesting and timely word.
Gustavo Suárez Pertierra
Chairman of Elcano Royal Institute